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A Summer Internship at Wolf Howl Animal Preserve - by Alex Coyle


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Here I was, walking off of a tiny MD-88 airplane that had just landed in the small airport of Tupelo, Mississippi.  I walked into the lobby and immediately saw my good friends, Mrs. Maria and Mr. Don Ferguson, owners and founders of Wolf Howl Animal Preserve.  I found my self smiling already.  It was so good to see them, I had visited before and was even one of the wolf nannys that helped socialize the wolf pups, but this was my first time traveling alone.
      
Nashoba_WHAP10.jpg We arrived back at the Preserve and now it was time to receive the endless kisses, tail wags, and love canines can give.  Sara the lab had grown since last time I had saw her, and trickster Tah-lee's fur had darkened significantly.  Walking over to the other side of the preserve I meet up with Juno, Nashoba, and Willy.  Juno greeted me with her adorable howl; you can hear her spunky personality in it.  Nashoba jumped up and down and Willy spun around in circles and greeted me with his traditional boundless energy.




Then I walked over to the wolf enclosure; the wolves were whining with interest to see who had arrived.  I was chuffed at a few times, but after much sniffing of the air I was deemed acceptable and the wolves returned to their lounging around.  

Everyday I simply helped out with what needed to be done.  I helped with orders, preparing food, grooming the dogs, and even designing t-shirts!  I had never realized how much goes into keeping the food prep station sanitary.  One day I took on the challenge of ridding Tah-Lee the wiggle worm of his fur mats, a trickier scenario then one might think.  As for the t-shirts, well, the program I used to design them certainly made me rack my brains.  After churning out about three really lousy designs, I finally came up with some decent ones; “Roots in Nature”, and my favorite, “Three Moon Wolf”.  I most definitely gained an appreciation for graphic designers!

My daily chores were not much of chores.  They were chores, but it was fun and different.  Kind of like when you get tired of a snack, and go to a friend's place and find their snacks so incredible, yet they are bored of their 'incredible' snacks.  In a nutshell, I was doing something totally unique and different from what I had ever done, so this trip was a really great experience.

A couple of days into my trip while filling water buckets for the wolves in the isolation area, Mrs. Maria asked if I would be comfortable with one or two of the pups I had helped raise come in with me.  My brain was thinking oh my gosh, oh my gosh are you for real heck yes why wouldn't I ah!  But all I could manage to say was, “Yes.”  So in come Niko Akni and Nita.  I had expected Niko to be brave and come up to me first; he was my little buddy back when he was a pup.  But much to Mrs. Maria's surprise and mine, Nita was the brave wolf.  She slowly approached me and gave my hand a sniff.  After a minute I slowly raised my hand and petted her fur.  The guard hairs were a bit coarser than I had imagined but her undercoat was oh-so soft.  She left after a few strokes.  Niko approached me, then walked around and ate the grass, pretending like I wasn't there.  I just laughed.  He was curious, but shy. 

Throughout the rest of my two week stay, I would visit the pups in the isolation area for a little bit.  Each time they warmed up to me a bit more.  One day, Nita starting circling me and sniffing, taking a great interest in my shoe.  She began to press her body weight against mine and suddenly flopped down on my foot and promptly began scent rolling on top of it!  It was so cute, and after that, Nita was the bravest of them all, coming to me for belly rubs and kisses.  I would just lay in the grass with her and run my fingers through her fur until she looked sleepy.  Those were simple and beautiful moments of bliss.

One of the best parts of the Preserve is the location.  Having lived in a tourist packed, coastal area, brimming with patriotic sound of jet noise all the time, Mississippi was a nice change of pace.  At night, silence was filled with the sounds of critters and unknown animals.  The Fergusons and I referred to the maker of one of these unidentifiable sounds as tree sheep.  On a clear night the sky was just a blanket of stars.  Stargazing is one of the amazing things that are taken away when you live in a city.  I sat on the lawn with Tah-lee and Sarah at my side craning my neck to look at the endless sky.  Within twenty minutes or so (Time was a really strange concept at the Preserve.) I saw three shooting stars.  Having only seen one before, seeing three was too crazy to comprehend.  They were gone in the blink of an eye and you would doubt if you imagined it, but the confirmation was when someone else caught that magical split second, too.

Saying goodbye was a hard thing to do.  I knew that everything back at home was all hustle and bustle.  I knew that trying to explain to my friends how amazing it was to 'hang with the wolves' would be a hard thing to do.  It's something so simple, but such an incredible opportunity.  And I knew that on my flight home, all I could think of was my next visit.

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